The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Sellassie I - Volume 2



We were present at the sixteenth general assembly of the League of Nations of Sene 23, 1928 [June 30, 1936], to explain the fascist invasion of Our country and the atrocities perpetrated on the people. The next day Sene 24th [July 1], while the assembly continued its deliberations, all the small nations that had placed confidence in the protection the League was supposed to provide, were displeased at the backsliding exhibited in the treatment of Ethiopia's case, and some delegates openly criticized the League for deserting its fundamental objective.

The Swedish envoy detailed the failure the League suffered as the result of its inability to save Ethiopia and presented the opinion of the Swedish public. The Irish envoy, Mr. de Valera, on his part, expressed his bitter grief. The envoy of New Zealand, Sir James Parr, voiced his painful feelings of despair, proposed placing heavy sanctions on Italy, and explained at length New Zealand's readiness to go along with other members of the League in this respect, should the majority decide as such. The Chinese envoy, Dr Wellington Koo, pointed out that the League helped foment the present crisis because it had refrained from condemning Japan.

The Iranian envoy also indicated that no treaty could be operational unless a spirit of truth prevailed in the assembly. The Spanish envoy added that it was not the weakness of the Covenant per se that had failed to save Ethiopia; was good in and of itself. What proved to be bad was, he exclaimed, the means adopted to enforce the covenant.

The Soviet envoy Monsieur [Maxim] Litvinov criticized the League for failing to impose sanctions soon after Ethiopia and Italy found themselves in conflict [and] before the situation escalated into serious trouble. He added that a few countries had imposed the proposed sanctions, but with no visible result. Since the League had earned the confidence of even non-member countries, had the sanctions been strong from the outset, any aggressor would have been deterred. However, the handling of the sanctions was not comprehensive enough, and created the present problem. He reminded all member countries that, even now, in view of Article 16, they should realize the obligations by which they were bound and, beyond imposing sanctions, should provide military assistance.

The South African envoy, Mr. Charles Te Water, stressed that "the sanctions which were imposed on the aggressor state should not be lifted" and stated that it was not enough to pass resolutions concerning the relations between governments. We should be able to demonstrate our courage by translating them into practice. If we violate the resolutions we pass and do not put them into practice, "would not it be better for the member countries to give up their collective efforts altogether," he added.

The English envoy, Sir Anthony Eden, said,

Yesterday we listened to the majestic speech of the Emperor of Ethiopia. The speech did not fail to move the hearts of each one of us. Surely, we had imposed economic and financial sanctions on the aggressor, but it did not work. Only military force can alter the situation in Ethiopia at this moment, but I do not think the current international situation will allow us to use military force. All the same, we have seen that the sanctions did not work, and it is better to lift them. For the time being, I need only to remind the League not to recognize Italy's victory.

The Canadian envoy Mr. Vincent [Massey] stated that Canada had imposed the proposed sanctions on Italy.... but suggested that the economic sanctions be lifted since they were not strong enough, and since their contin­uation would not be of any value in bringing about the desired result.

The Austrian envoy, Mr. [Emeric] Pflugl, the arch-supporter of the fascist government said, "Italy is a country inspired by the principles of the League; it is also the herald of the sanctified good news of civilization." The Hungarian envoy voiced similar collaborative opinions.

The economic sanctions bore no fruit because Britain and France feared that would spur Italy into joining Hitler, the man who had armed Nazi Germany and who had begun harrassing European democracies. Thus, the economic sanctions were imposed half-heartedly and timidly.

One peculiar problem was that, if England used its navy to impose an oil embargo, such an action was presumed to lead to misunderstandings with America over the freedom of sea traffic. For this and other reasons, it remained impossible to stop Italy's aggression.

We, on Our part, prepared two draft resolutions to be presented by Our delegates to the assembly, and delivered them to the General Secretary of the League via the leader of our delegation, Dejazmatch Nasibu Zamanuel:

1st. If a country were to be subdued and occupied by force of arms, let not the government of the occupier be recognized;

2nd. Since in accordance with article 16 of the Charter of the League of Nations, Ethiopia was entitled to receive assistance, let the assembly, in consultation with the finance committee of the League, and in agreement with the capacity which the Ethiopian government claims to have, support and approve a loan of ten million pounds to Ethiopia under the guarantee of the member states.

That same day the French envoy presented a draft resolution containing such ideas as lifting the economic sanctions and accepting the annexation of Ethiopia to Italy as a fait accompli. The next morning these resolutions were presented to the general assembly [which,] without discussion or objection, upon the recommendation of the president, referred the matter to a committee which was scheduled to meet in the evening. After the committee had deliberated, the communique which came out the next morning disclosed that the suggestions of the French envoy had been criticized by the small nations, and, since the sentence which ostensibly recognized Ethiopia's annexation by Italy weakened article 16, modification was suggested.

The committee did not complete its assignment and was instructed to meet on Saturday, Sene 27 [July 4] at 9 A.M., the General Assembly was scheduled to meet at 2 P.M.. Our envoys opposed the tight schedule in order to avoid hasty decisions. According to the standing regulations of the assembly, notice should have been given before any decision was to be taken.

As We learned from our delegates, a decision was made to call upon each country to vote on the recommendation submitted to the delegates, and it was felt that all were inclined to betray Ethiopia. On the issue of lifting the sanctions, Mexico opposed the details of the draft resolution and walked out of the meeting. The countries present... were called in alphabetical order to cast their votes.... forty-four... voted in support of the lifting of the sanctions, Ethiopia opposed, and four countries abstained.

The president of the committee announced that the proposal of the general committee, i.e. that Ethiopia already had been annexed to Italy, was rejected owing to lack of support. Then he reported that the ten million pounds loan that We requested, had been voted upon, and twenty-three countries opposed, one country supported, and twenty-five countries abstained. The first Geneva judgment ended in this manner, and the next meeting was scheduled for September 21, 1936.

Mussolini on his part, gave the following long speech about the sanctions that had been imposed on Italy:

The fact that the whole world conspired against Italy was an irrational act. And there is something that those who live in Britain should know. That is the fact that the so-called League of Nations is an empty and defunct machine when it comes to the dispute between Ethiopia and Italy. Italy's glorious deed will be recorded only when the dispute between Italy and Ethiopia is settled outside the confusion of the League of Nations. I have dismantled the government of Ethiopia.

The representatives of a vanquished country should not be present in the Geneva assembly. We have not forgotten that the League levied an unprecedented punishment on the Italian people. We will not forget it in the future. It intended to decimate the people, the households, and children by starvation. It also attempted in vain to obstruct the efforts of our military, which was on a civilizing mission.

It did not succeed, however... [since] the League was confronted by the formidable unity of the Italian people, which is ready to sacrifice anything and is able to fight even against fifty-two countries Hereafter, it should not be necessary to involve the League of Nations in the remaining political efforts to bring peace. In 1935 A.D. we concluded an agreement with France. While an expansion of the agreement along the path of genuine friendship was being considered, the issue of sanctions came about. We were a bit disappointed at the sanctions. When this happened the winter was just beginning The winter passed.

Spring came. Our victory came with the spring. Yet the sanctions remained strictly in force. Two months after we entered Addis Abeba, the sanctions were still in force. France was still referring to the old re­cords of the League and continued to believe that the previous government of the Lion of Judah was alive. However, except in the records of the League, the truth is that, due to our victory, the emperor's government has expired.

I leave the reader to judge what the consequences of Mussolini's threat might have entailed, had not God, in His kindness, changed the situation. At the time the possibility for peace hinged upon the guarantee of Collective Security as provided in the regulations and procedures of the League. Mussolini however, invaded Ethiopia and began to jeer at and insult the League of Nations, saying its charter and procedures were useless pieces of paper and that the League was a worthless forum for bickering. As the result of these abusive and inflammatory words, many countries began to shiver visibly.

After this, We returned to London from Geneva. We received the necessary assistance from the people and authorities of England who showed Us hospitality during Our hard times.... Deciding to make Our residence at Bath, We bought a house called Fairfield and, with renewed vigor, continued Our struggle. A number of English people provided Us with sound friendship in Our diplomatic struggle by condemning the aggressor. Even earlier, in 1928 E.C. [1935-36], when Pierre Laval [then the French premier] made a clandestine agreement with Mussolini on matters which... involved Ethiopia, they had expressed their friendship. It is a matter of recent memory that many English people rejected the idea which the former British foreign Secretary Samuel Hoare proposed with Laval to stop the war, because they thought the terms were not only favorable and rewarding for the aggressor, but also supportive of the atrocities it had perpetrated. Later, the majority of the people did not hold back from supporting and sympathizing with Us in our struggle.

Initially, an organization named the "Abyssinia Association" was set up and began functioning to make financial contributions to Ethiopian refugees in order to help them in their daily needs. Under the editorship of Mrs. Sylvia Pankhurst, a weekly newspaper entitled New Times and Ethiopia News was established and published every Saturday. This newspaper helped Us loudly to voice Ethiopia's woes and to capture a worldwide audience; its service was so great that We would never forget the good deeds of Mrs. Sylvia Pankhurst.

When We went to England and lived there, We relied on God and counted on the assistance of the English people and did not need any protector for Our life. Our faith in God was firm, and Our belief remained certain that one day, in His righteous judgement, He would bestow victory on Us.

Although We were the leader of 15 million people, to achieve the goal of Our mission, We used to appear in various places where many people were gathered to explain about the yoke of misery that had fallen on my country and people.

* * *

While, on the one hand, We were doing things such as this, on the other hand, We had to transmit instructions to Ethiopia regarding the administration of Our government. When We left Ethiopia, We had ordered Bitwoded Wolde Tsadik to go to Gore to maintain order and to manage the work of Our govern­ment, and he had already started his work. After We reached England, however, on learning that Ras Imru was in Gore, We appointed him as Our chief representative and commander of the army, and Bitwoded Wolde Tsadik as Prime Minister to lead the country, and sent the following instruction to both of them.

To Ras Imru:

As We informed you in our previous letter, if We, in God's provision, secure money and arms, We believe that Our objectives will be rehabilitated. Nevertheless, at all times, be it during peace or war, as a leader is necessary in Western Ethiopia and in the lands not yet occupied by the Italians, you will be Our chief representative and commander of the army. We authorize you to use the revenue from the area according to your discretion, and let the proclamation be an­nounced soon and the work be started immediately. Set up the twelve ministries to start the work. To assist you in this work, Fitawrari Tafesse [Habte Mikail], Kenyazmatch Belhu, Azaj Kebbedde, and Ato Daba Biru have been sent out. Assign people like Gerazmatch Mesfin Kelemework [and] Blata Deressa to be in charge of the ministries. This is only a suggestion because We do not have the list of all the noblemen and the workers currently with you, so do whatever seems useful to you. However, let Bitwoded Wolde Tsadik be the Prime Minister and lead the work. We have sent a similar letter to him.

Hamle 12, 1928 A.D. [July 19, 1936]

To Bitwoded Wolde Tsadik:

As We informed you in detail in the other letter We had written you, We have made a point to be present at the September assembly [of the League of Nations], and have begun preparations to secure arms and loans from Europe. In Western Ethiopia, which the enemy has not yet occupied, We have ordered Ras Imru to be Our chief representative, and you to take up the work of the Prime Minister, and together with him do whatever is in your capacity for the liberation of Ethiopia, for our flag, and our religion; and envisage ways in which the enemy may be stricken and Ethiopia's independence restored.

Hamle 12, 1928 A.D. [July 19, 1936]

What was in Our mind was to be present at the League of Nations assembly, which was to be held in the month of September to speak about Ethiopia, then, after securing arms and financial assistance, proceed to join Our army at Gore to continue the struggle. Thus, We sent Our messengers, Fekade Sellassie Herui, Our Lord Chamberlain Kenyazmatch Belhu Degefu, the sons of Azaj Workineh, Benyamin and Yoseph, to hand over Our message to Ras Imru and others. Fekade Sellassie Herui came back to Us with their reply and later returned to Gore. The rest remained there. We wanted Ras Getachew Abate, with Ato Ephraim Tewoldemedhin, to enter Ethiopia through Gambela and join Our army; we gave him [the ras] a passport and money and he left. However, he remained in Cairo for a while, making all sorts of excuses, and eventually deserted Us and defected to the Italian side. Although greatly disappointed, Our trusty Ato Ephraim, however, returned to Us and resumed his service.

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